Set amidst the breathtaking scenery of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and Banff National Park, this pretty village offers access to three excellent ski resorts. The area is home to beautiful wildlife, natural hot springs and extensive après ski and dining options. Bus transportation conveniently links skiers and snowboarders to the vast array of terrain in the resorts of Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise. Lift passes are available to allow skiing in all three resorts near Banff. It is important to remember that temperatures here are lower than many ski resorts and can drop as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius. Skiing and snowboarding is superb for all levels of ability. All of these factors, along with the excellent snow reliability and long ski season, make Banff a premier ski destination.
*Based on Banff Sunshine Village.
**Combined statistics for Banff Mount Norquay, Banff Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Mountain Resort.
Banff offers access to many good areas for beginners. Each resort has a ski and snowboard school and the Club Ski and Club Snowboard Programmes offer schooling across all three resorts over three days. Sunshine Village and Norquay also provide plenty of choice for beginner skiers.
Intermediate skiers and snowboarders will love the variety available here. Sunshine Village has many blue and green pistes, including a World Cup Downhill run. Norquay also offers great choice for those looking to cover lots of snow, with Mystic Ridge particularly noteworthy. Snowboard facilities are excellent and free riding is particularly good at Norquay.
Advanced skiers and snowboarders will love Banff. There is a huge choice of challenging pistes across the three resorts. Of particular note are Sunshine Village's Waterfall run on Mount Standish, offering runs down a snow-covered, frozen waterfall, the Diamond Mine on Mount Whitehorn in Lake Louise, an open bowl with diamond and double black diamond runs, and the challenging moguls of Norquay's steep Lone Pine trail. Both off-piste and heli-skiing are also exhilarating here, though be aware that a companion, avalanche transceiver and shovel are mandatory. Each resort has its own terrain park for snowboarders and freestyle skiers.
The sheer size of all three resorts could be a little daunting for some families but amenities are excellent. Sunshine and Norquay offer day care and ski tuition for children and this provision for children at all three resorts is well received.
Banff itself is the town with the highest elevation in Canada. Each of the Sunshine, Norquay and Lake Louise ski areas have access to summits in excess of 2000 metres. Although there are resorts with higher summits, the terrain here offers many awe-inspiring steep runs and the average temperature is so low that snow reliability is excellent.
The cold and dry climate of Banff and the surrounding area help extend the season well into May. Snowmaking is extensive on many pistes and Sunshine boasts an average annual snowfall over three times as heavy as Lake Louise and Norquay. This is as good as anywhere in the Rockies - increasing the chances of excellent natural snow into late April and beyond.
Banff offers a huge amount of choice in terms of eating out. There are over a hundred restaurants that range from fast food to fine dining. The town is very popular and restaurants can become crowded. Steak and seafood restaurants are in abundance, as are burger, rib and Italian eateries. The intrepid gastronome will find good Eastern food as well. In late afternoon and early evening, Banff's après ski can be surprisingly low-key. A great deal of the crowds finish their skiing with drinks in one of the three surrounding resorts. Later in the evening, the cowboy saloons, British theme pubs, live music venues and nightclubs start to attract the crowds for a lively night.